Sunday, February 26, 2012

Prelude to a Supernova

Check the photo out. This is one of the stars in the binary star system Eta Carinae, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. The image is the residual of an outburst first observed in April 1843. At its height t was the second brightest star in the sky, outshone only by Sirius. The event lasted until the start of the 20th century.

The event's aftermath, shown in the Hubble photo, shows the huge clouds of matter thrown out by the event in the 18 hundreds, called a false nova because it so closely resembles a nova when it occurs. The cloud comes from the death throes of the larger of the pair and is highly unstable. So unstable in fact that it could end its life as a supernova, the brightest ever seen from Earth, in the very near future.

Eta Carinae is one of the closest stars to Earth that is likely to explode in a supernova in the relatively near future - but future is a relative term in interstellar time. The supernova could happen in a few hundred years or a few hundred millenia.

photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Larger sized photos and more info at the NASA Goddard Flickr site here

Saturday, February 25, 2012

BMU 302 Online

Very eclectic mix today, but all in all, I think entertaining.

I open this week with a short story from K.J. Kabza called Billions of Stars - a falling star and a wasted wish? What’s a guy to do?

From here I trundle off to the blog, with a bit of a side step to this week’s top stories from Earth - Sky concerning the night sky early in march, water on Mars and activity on the surface of the sun. The Sun is nearing an activity peak that should happen in 2013. From the blog proper: Japanese construction company Obayashi Corp has announced it will have built a space elevator capable of taking passengers to an altitude over 20,000 miles above the Earth, For years of star gazing one of my favorites has been Orion but it seems I may have been in error because what I thought was his sword may be interpreted as something very different indeed! According to the Anime News Network via Topless robot, Warner Brothers studio has licensed the rights to Tite Kubo's Bleach in hopes of making a live action film, I speak about some future Darwin Award recipients! The Hubble Space Telescope continues to do history making discoveries. Of late Hubble has discovered an extrasolar planet - a true water world. A Dutch company called OrthoMetals recycles metal implants from cremated human bodies - to the tune of 250 tons! The Science Fiction Writers of America have announced the nominees for the 2011 Nebula Awards and Nancy Fulda is in the running with her story Movement which she has given us permission to read the really moving tale on this week’s program. I get part one read this week and will follow with two next week.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Japanese Space Elevator by 2050

Japanese construction company Obayashi Corp has announced it will have built a space elevator capable of taking passengers to an altitude over 20,000 miles above the Earth and they plan to have it constructed by 2050.

According to the The Daily Yomiuri,  the herculean structure, built of carbon nano-tubes, would be 60,000 miles high attached to a counter weight to keep the structure from falling to the Earth under its own weight.

the The Daily Yomiuri 

Orion Has a What?!

Hey the next time you're out star gazing, check out the Orion constellation. Something I never picked up as long as I have looked to the heavens in the winter months - it would seem that Orion is more anatomically correct than I previously thought?! In truth, I had always considered it a sword, but I guess I must stop fooling myself.  Swords hang to the side...that's NOT a sword... And of course, Gizmodo couldn't let it pass. Here is a cartoon they posted -

Thursday, February 23, 2012

WB Has Optioned Bleach?

According to the Anime News Network via Topless robot, Warner Brothers studio has licensed the rights to Tite Kubo's Bleach in hopes of making a live action film. At the helm will be Dan Mazeau who did the Wrath of the Titans remake as script writer. Peter Segal who's credits include the Get Smart remake ane the Longest Yard remake is set to produce the film and possibly being the director as well.

Warner Brothers has already acquired the rights to adapt Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata's Death Note.  Without producing any output so far, WB seems bent on buying up anime rights.

I am a big fan of Bleach and what bothers me about this arrangement is the script writer's credit is that horrid remake of Wrath of the Titans and the director Get Smart and the Longest Yard remakes.   All perfectly fine in their original incarnation but to a one were abysmal offerings the second time around.

Anime News Network article 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Some WTF Moments....

Long time listener Dan passed me an article from The Boston Herald. In it are detailed some very possible future recipients of future Darwin Awards. Now for you that are not aware of what the Darwin Awards are for... let me enlighten you. To receive a Darwin you must perform an act so utterly stupid that the end result is death and therefor removing your genes from the reproductive pool. Now these folks are nominees in that their acts are Darwin eligible but they have managed to escape death to this point.

Take these examples for instance:
A teen breaks into an Orange Park Fl home only to be instantly arrested. Seems the owner was a member of the police department....

After a knife wielding assailant robs a man in Nightcliff AU, is arrested while trying to swim naked across, as luck would have it, Darwin Harbor. He professed in court not to remember the incident as some unknown being had hijacked his body and was programming him to commit heinous crimes. The article states that mental health professionals are examining him.

There are several other examples like the elderly gent who called 911 because he was suspicious that the car he had seen appeared to be full of terrorist and he was suspicious of their "foreign" plate.....from Canada. Or the Portland OR man who was surprised to see the police at his door on Valentine's Day. It seems witnesses had seen him leaving a parking lot with a naked woman tied up in his back seat. It seems that the couple thought this would be a fun way to celebrate the holiday....

And there are more in the 2/19/12 issue of the Boston Herald....

Hubble Discovers a "Waterworld,"

The Hubble Space Telescope continues to do history making discoveries. Of late Hubble has brought us the extrasolar planet with the unimposing moniker GJ1214b a water world.

Now I suspect that at this moment you are thinking of the movie staring Kevin Costner  with the same title, but GJ1214b is a far cry from Costner's temperate world.  Hubble's waterworld atmosphere appears to  consist of more than 50% water!  The "surface" of the planet seems to be also mostly all water.  But that is as close as we are going to get to anything even close to human habitability.   Due to it's orbit, which is very close to the system's sun, the mean surface is apx. 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  At this point you have to be thinking liquid water at 450 degrees?!  Then think what an atmosphere that is thick with water and this would result in massive pressures at the surface, allowing water to remain in a "fluid" state.  The high pressures would form exotic materials like 'hot ice' or 'superfluid water.

So we have a planet with an atmosphere dense with super-heated steam, and on the surface thick viscous water possibly littered with huge  hot "icebergs"

Read complete IO9 article here  



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2011 Nebula Awards nominees announced

The Science Fiction Writers of America have announced the nominees for the 2011 Nebula Awards,


Among Others, Jo Walton
Embassytown, China MiƩville
Firebird, Jack McDevitt
God's War, Kameron Hurley
Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, Genevieve Valentine
The Kingdom of Gods, N.K. Jemisin


Kiss Me Twice -  Mary Robinette Kowal
Silently and Very Fast - Catherynne M. Valente
The Ice Owl - Carolyn Ives Gilman
The Man Who Bridged the Mist - Kij Johnson
The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary -  Ken Liu
With Unclean Hands -  Adam-Troy Castro


Fields of Gold -  Rachel Swirsky
Ray of Light -  Brad R. Torgersen
Sauerkraut Station -  Ferrett Steinmetz
Six Months, Three Days - Charlie Jane Anders
The Migratory Pattern of Dancers -  Katherine Sparrow
The Old Equations -  Jake Kerr
What We Found -  Geoff Ryman

Short Story

Her Husband's Hands -  Adam-Troy Castro
Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son - Tom Crosshill
Movement - Nancy Fulda
Shipbirth -  Aliette de Bodard
The Axiom of Choice -  David W. Goldman
The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees -  E. Lily Yu
The Paper Menagerie -  Ken Liu

Article from Boing Boing / written by Cory Doctorow

It's People! It's Made From People......!

Ahem...yes...well, after the histrionics of the title and all that.  I came across a mildly macabre news item in the BBC News via Boing Boing.  It concerned the harvesting and recycling of medical metal.  Right off I thought of Soylent Green starring Charlton Heston and the horrific short story -  "We Honor Those We Serve by Steve Singleman". (If you haven't enjoyed this little slice, sorry, of crazy, check out episode 283 of Beam Me Up at  It seems that a Dutch company called OrthoMetals which recycles metal implants from cremated human bodies.  Nope, not kidding.  With the pinch on for metals, any source can reap, again sorry, a healthy profit.

From the article:

  • the company recycles more than 250 tons of metal from cremations annually, which gets used to make things like cars, planes, and even wind turbines.
At approximately $8 a pound for just medical grade titanium can net about 4 million dollars alone annually for what used to be discarded.  Since the metal is procured for all intents free of cost,  the proceeds are almost 100% profit even when 70-75% of the proceeds are returned to the crematoria, for spending on charitable projects.

Not science fiction in and of itself, but you can see how something that was considered so very alien and horrific is now solid business practices and a win win for the environment.    The dodah man was right!      

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dave Scholes new novel Alien Hunter now available

Writer Dave Scholes send in an item that is real good news.  This is the gist of the note is:

  • Just to let you know that I've just published a novella based on my Alien Hunter series that was published on the GVM site.

  • At present its only available on Lulu but will become available on Amazon etc and as an e-book for e-readers in the coming weeks.
  • The Lulu link is here

 Thanks for the update Dave

Happy Birthday Richard Matheson

Nelson was good enough to jog my memory and send me one of the quintessential moment in television history.  As you can see Mr. Shatner cringes in fear as the horror that is slowly destroying the plane he is riding in.  Yes, the Twilight Zone's "Terror at 20,000 Feet".  This episode was responsible for a phobia that still haunts me to this day.  That of pulling aside a curtain on a dark night.  I still get this little thrill of fear at what might reside on the other side of cloth barrier.  
Richard Matheson is 86 as of February 20th.  Incredibly prolific, Matheson's work is well known in many genre including my favorite Science Fiction.  Besides his television work many of his novels have been adapted to the big screen.  Two of note were The Incredible Shrinking Man, and I Am Legend, both ground breaking in their scope.  I Am Legend alone has been done several times, latest of note stared Will Smith, with an earlier version staring the great Charlton Heston.  Plus who can ever forget Steven Speilburg first outing in the 1971 "Duel"!

The Wikipedia has a great article here  and writer Dayton Ward has a nice tribute on his blog The Fog Ward

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Evaporating Black Holes Hint At Gravity May Not Be A Fundamental Force

This article in the Daily Galaxy  hints at some really troubling ideas.  Since 2011 researchers at the University of York  have been doing research on black holes that changes fundamentally how we view the "permanence" of a singularity.

Up to this point it has universally accepted that anything that crossed the "event horizon" of a black hole  can never crawl back across and escape.  This even in light of Dr. Hawkings modifying his position slightly  on the total loss of information.

However the York researchers study suggests that information can and does escape leads them to suggest that gravity alone may NOT be an all encompassing fundamental force but

  • "that space, time and even gravity itself may be emergent properties within a deeper theory," said Samuel Braunstein.  
As you might guess, many physicists  are skeptical that quantum mechanic which is primarily used to describe light and sub-atomic particles can be applied to fundamental forces of nature as it operates in a black hole.  Many feel that it's hard to properly describe the evaporating black hole without the effects of gravity on the system.

From the Article:

  • "We cannot claim to have proven that escape from a black hole is truly possible, but that is the most straight-forward interpretation of our results,"  said Samuel Braunstein
read the complete Daily Galaxy article here

Friday, February 17, 2012

Laura Shighara sings Everything's Alright

Rob Bricken over at the Topless Robot blog has been waxing eloquent about the indie game "To The Moon" and one of the most adorable thing he mentions is one of the songs from the game, Everhthing's Alright was sung by Laura Shighara. This peeked my interest and lucky me I see that there is a Youtube video. He is right, the song is cute and certainly worthy of a play.

Here is the video....enjoy

Swiss Plan to Launch a “Janitor Satellite”

Like a "Roomba" for space! Well maybe not quite but damn close. Swiss scientists have announced (according to NY Daily News) that they plan on launching what they are calling a “janitor satellite” to clean up space junk.

The $11-million satellite called "CleanSpace One" is one type of a family of proposed robot satellites first of which are planned to launch within three to five years. CleanSpace One's first tasks are to capture two Swiss owned satellites which were launched in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

As many of you know, this is a bit of a pet peeve for me. NASA alone tracks hundreds of thousand pieces of space junk large enough to damage or destroy other spacecraft, with upwards of several million pieces capable of significant damage to being lethal to EVAing astronauts.

The biggest problem to capturing space junk sounds like it should be the simplest, getting close enough to effect a capture. As any space jockey knows, translations in space are costly because all the fuel that the maneuvering engines use has to be transported from deep in Earth's gravity well, making it extremely costly. However new ultra-compact motors are first on the Swiss' drawing board. Next as we have seen time and time again, just getting a good solid grip on hardware in space is difficult at best. The Swiss are looking into revolutionary new effectors that would grab and securely hold it for disposal. And ultimately the satellite must be able to translate the captured hardware and itself back into the Earth's atmosphere where it will safely burn up.

First in Space Human - Robonaut Handshake

So here is a Nasa video of a first ever. The first human / robot handshake in space. There it is in all its' glory. Very auspicious occasion. Nope I can't do anyone else profoundly sad right now? Are you struck speechless at the total frivolity and waste of a platform said to be the answer to the dangers of working in space? Something to truly aide astronauts - side by side - into the future....yeah that kind of stuff they said when this project was first introduced to the public....PR HANDSHAKES W....T....F...?!

Yeah I know...sarcastic, jaded and all of that...sorry, but I honestly couldn't even watch the whole video. I quit when mission control congratulated Dan Burbank for a job well done while the remaining crew documented it. Look, I bought one of those Radio Shack robot arms back in the 70s when then first came out....laid out some serious cash for it back then...30 bucks or something....anyway, I can remember telling my brother hey shake hands with it! great fun that.... 40 years and for less money than it costs for a screw in Robonauts finger and it was a joke then......

ok, I guess I have probably pissed off enough people...I'm done.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sagan's Pale Blue Dot

Look, I am not going to wax eloquent of the genius here or the failings there.....I just want you to watch the damn video.... Am I saying that you have failed personally as a human being ... no.. But for those of us that have seen it before, I offer up a reminder....for those that haven't then listen to a truely great man put things into perspective for a moment....that's all I ask.....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

They Named that Toy What?!!!

ok, maybe not sci-fi or science but there are robots....soooooooooooooooo from the wildmen at Topless Robot 10 toys with really questionable names or product design. The video is a commercial for Ding-a-Lings, watch where the spy's camera is .....

10) Monster in My Pocket - from matchbox
9) Spongebob Squarepants Bikini Bottom Groom & Go - From Nickelodean
8) Smurf Punch Balls
7) Probe - from Parker Bros
6) Toypedo  - it looks more like a......OMG!
5) Ding-a-Lings
4) Ballbuster - From  Meego ...just go see the video...oh hell yess they knew!
3) Belly Bongo - yep there is a video...WTF!!!
2) Balzac  - Yep the commercial says it all turn up the fun with Balzac

and the number one most outrageously named toy goes to....

1) Pull-Along Cock & Pull-Along Pussy - oh come on! really? REALLY!???? What a legacy huh? If you had one as a kid you can give it to yours....yes they can have the same cock and Pussy puller you had as a child....makes me all....teary....

Young Sun Paradox Says Life Should Not Have Happened?

Yep, you read that right. IO9 posted an article that for all intents says that due to the energy output of Sol's when it was much younger could not have warmed the Earth enough to have liquid water and there for making life all but impossible. But since Earth teems with life, there is a bit of a paradox. The young sun paradox.

This is approximately how it works. In the early days of the solar system, the sun's output was only about 70 of today's levels. This means that there was not enough energy to maintain a liquid water environment on Earth and absolutely no running water on Mars which we know is NOT the case. This paradox was first put forward in the 70s by the likes of Carl Sagan.

From the article:

  • A Penn State research team .. has created a new computer model that can simulate the Sun's evolution under various different starting condition. What they're searching for is the right combination of starting elements and internal conditions that could support an old, largely disregarded explanation: that the Sun was once more massive than it is now, and a fierce solar wind shrunk it to its present size.
How much bigger....anywhere from 2% to 10%  larger than it's present size.  That would mean that despite a lower output, the additional size means that the energy reaching Earth and Mars was pretty much the same.  

Check out the article here

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Want a Free Satellite? Here is How To Get One!

Well I may be a bit disingenuous with the title, but as a recent Dvice article points out that NASA has a habit of making things that last well past their envisioned mission parameters. What usually happens then is NASA runs out of money and the Satellite or whatever is abandoned in place.

From the article:

  • In an uncharacteristically common-sense move, NASA has decided to explore ways of continuing the science payoff of missions that it would otherwise have to scrap due to budget constraints.
Here is an example that the article pointed out. GALEX, an ultraviolet space telescope launched in 2003 to make an ultraviolet map of the sky is about finished with it's mission.  For all intents and purposes the spacecraft is almost completely functional, but since it is so far down on the funding list NASA would have turned it off and walked away from the complete system.   However, again from the article:

  • NASA is considering the unprecedented move of transferring GALEX and its associated ground equipment to the California Institute of Technology (for free) so that the telescope can continue to collect data.
This sounds like a really great idea and pretty much a win win for any participating institution.  I imagine that there are unseen complications that I am not privy to, but just knowing that there are scientific equipment platforms  that could and will be abandoned....(like, for instance, when the Hubble is finally decommed, I wonder just how much science it could still do if they just gave it to someone?  I know, extreme but you see where I am going.) 

Plainly someone at NASA is thinking outside the box.......

Does the Voice in Your Head Sound Like You?

I know...I am really just ASKING for the jokes arn't I? But when you come to consider it - just exactly what does the voice in your head sound like and does it speak and pronounce words as well as you do when you speak out loud or read out loud? It is almost like a Philip K. Dick story writing itself huh?

Anyway, I came across this piece of strangeness in Boing Boing. It cites a study published last fall by psychology researchers at Britain's University of Nottingham. It really is an interesting question.

From the article

  • Although you might think it's a given, previous studies have suggested that the voice you speak with and the voice you think with might not be pronouncing words quite the same.
The surprising or not so much result from the new study is that there is some parity between between audible and silent pronunciation.  Pretty much opposite what convention up to that point would have us believe.

Article writer Stan Carey goes into great detail on how the study was performed and as counter intuitive as it might seem, it IS an interesting read.  Click the article title to go to his Boing Boing article.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beam Me Up episode 300 now online

Listeners of the live show said that this was a bit of a “giggly” episode. Well considering that this was episode 300 I was a bit giddy plus a few of the station’s show hosts were out in studio 3 making sure I didn’t get too serious.  All in all I have had several listeners call or email to let me know that they really enjoyed everything about the episode.  Cant beat that!

Anyway, this week I play episode four of our favorite Psychic detective Jack Garrett on New Arden in “In Plain Sight” by Jason Kahn. I then review the movie “I am Number Four” blu-ray and as luck had it  was able to find a cut of one of the songs to play, Adel’s “Rolling in the Deep” is used in the movie very effectively I might add. From there we head back to the Beam Me Up blog and talk about Mars reaching aphelion this week and play a report on the event from Earth Sky. I find a Youtube short that shows a fascinating experiment on-board the ISS concerning of all things, knitting needles and drops of water! Boing Boing posts a link to a decidedly weird video from the band Total Ghost called “Space Station” now what is really funny about this is that SpaceX founder Elon Musk Tweeted this video saying it would be an appropriate theme song for their efforts to get private industry into space. Even though the video is totally out there the mind set is really dead on! Scientists from Russia have finally reached the surface of Lake Vostok more than two miles under Antarctica ice! Back to Earth Sky, I run an article on the discovery of more of brown dwarf class y stars. These stars are some of the more unusual of their class.

Finally I play a story from this month’s Antipodean flash fiction site. This story is called “Love in a Time of Entropy” by Geordie McLeod and is a great short story that I had a great deal of fun reading.

That’s pretty much it for episode 300. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed doing it. Thanks.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Demonstration of Water Droplets Orbit a Knitting Needle on the ISS

In this YouTube video we watch as astronaut Don Pettit performs a demonstration of the physics of electrical charges and spheres using of all things, knitting needles. The demonstration is instantly fascinating as Pettit releases small droplets along the length of the needle. You can instantly see the correlation to orbital mechanics even though Pettit takes great pains to caution that theses are static fields in operation and that objects orbiting a body in space are gravitational. Still, Pettit never fails to amaze and fascinate. Check this video out.

Space Station by Total Ghost

I found this piece of weirdness on Boing Boing. I would have totally spaced it if it were not for the comments that came with the video. Seems this music video had been making the rounds on YouTube for a few months without much fan fare until as the Boing Boing corespondant wrote:

  • SpaceX founder Elon Musk shouted it out on Twitter.'s the perfect theme song for SpaceX

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Lake Vostok's Surface Finally Reached

Long time listener Dan pointed me towards this AP article concerning ground breaking achievement by Russian scientists. Lake Vostok at 160 miles long and 30 miles wide, (similar in size to Lake Ontario) is on of the largest of nearly 400 subglacial lakes in Antarctica. Located about 800 miles east of the South Pole Vostock has been locked under more than two miles of ice for twenty million years. Biologist hope that the lake contains unchanged microbial lifeforms that date back millions of years.

Drilling on the site has been on and off since 1969.

Are There Trillions and Trillians of Comets & Asteroids Around the Milkyway's Giant Black Hole?

Just about every day, the black hole at the center of our Milkyway Galaxy flairs uo with a burst of gamma as well as X-ray radios. This here to fore undiscovered phenomena was discovered by the Cnandra space telescope operated by NASA and documented over several years.

Not all the x-ray radiation need come from material falling  through the black hole's event horizon.  Any object that passes withing 100 million miles of  the super massive singularity would instantly be torn apart.  Then it would be torn apart by the gravitational forces. Then the material would then be vaporized by friction bye  the hot, thin gases that are falling into the black hole giant. 

From the article 
Very long observations ...will be made with Chandra later in 2012 that will give valuable new information about the frequency and brightness of flares and should help to test the model proposed here to explain them.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Ok all you liquid fueled rocket engine nuts out there, here is news on the new engine from SpaceX. Here is the video text:
  • SpaceX successfully test fires SuperDraco, a powerful new engine that will play a critical role in efforts to change the future of human spaceflight. These engines will power a revolutionary launch escape system that will make Dragon the safest spacecraft in history and enable it to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy. In a series of tests conducted at SpaceX's Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, the SuperDraco sustained full duration, full thrust firing as well as a series of deep throttling demonstrations.

Review: I Am Number Four

The movie I am Number four is  based on a novel of the same name by author Pittacus Lore which is the pseudonym of writing team James Frey and Jobie Hughes.  Published by HarperCollins on August 3, 2010, the novel spent 7 weeks at #1on the YA slot of The New York Times Best Seller list.

The move stars

Alex Pettyfer            John Smith  #4
Timothy Olyphant    Henri
Teresa Palmer         Number Six
Dianna Agron           Sarah Hart
Callan McAuliffe       Sam Goode
Kevin Duran             The Mogadorians, Commander
Jake Abel                 Mark James

The Wikipedia article does a good job of fleshing out the movie plot.  My take on the film is that it is a pretty standard Terminator (without the cyborg) with a healthy dose of Escape to Witch Mountain thrown in for good measure.  

Number 4 and his guardian are the last few surviving members of a race, called Loriens, that has been decimated by the militaristic Mogadorians.  

The Mogadorians are relentless and so “John” and his guardian are never able to stay in one spot for long.  But number Four after constant running has decided to make a stand in Paradise Ohio.  In the fight that ensues, the beagle who was once a lizard proves not to be beagle either, John is joined by the mysterious number 6 and general mayhem is the rule.  

The end is not quite the happy ending that the director has been telegraphing  for most of the movie but considering that there seems to be a wide open ended plot-line, the ending makes a great deal of sense.  

Director Caruso overseen by Michael Bay manage to bring what for all intents and purposes was a book for young teens and give it main stream appeal.  

The plot is of course very derivative but the acting is far from campy  - mix in really competent special effects and  seamless green screen and you have yourself a very watchable film.

On the Blu-ray side of things, there ARE some extra content available!  No director comments, but we are treated to deleted scenes and bloopers.  Not great, but not bad either.  

I would give the movie a 7 just for being predictable and the extra content the same 7 for some content but lacking in what many of us have come to view as essential content, overall a 7 for the film.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Looking For Exo - Civilizations

In this recent Daily Galaxy article I found a really novel approach for looking for life or more to the fact, thriving high tech civilizations on other planets.   In the past astronomers have looked for alien civilizations by listening for radio signals or looking for ultra-short laser pulses.   Now in the past it was not uncommon to listen in the communications bands as well hoping that we literally "listen in" for  extraterrestrial intelligence.  The problem in that approach is that like us it is not unreasonable to expect that many of these signals would be shielded or better focused and in cable for television and phone, therefor making such signals almost impossible to detect.

Now astronomers from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Princeton University have suggested a novel idea for detecting alien societies - urban lights.

It is a beautifully simple idea and it is played out every 90 minutes or so aboard the ISS.   It is a very striking sight to see the lights of the big cities glowing on the night side of Earth.   A truly vigorous society on another planet would almost certainly have bright cities at night.   No matter what wavelength these lifeforms would see in, artificial lighting is all but a given in a city environment.   The astronomers are of the mindset that the total change in light levels  from a planet with city lighting will vary in a way that is measurably different from a planet that has no artificial lights.

It really is a brilliant and brilliantly simple idea.  Read the complete Daily Galaxy blog article here.

First Video of Moon's Far Side

NASA's twin spacecraft GRAIL mission has sent back video from the "Ebb" half of the twin orbiter mission. This is Ebb's first video of the far side of the moon. The imagery was taken on Jan. 19 by the MoonKAM aboard the mission's "Ebb" spacecraft. Flow's MoonKAM is to be tested at a later date, yet to be announced.

As the article points out, the Grail mission is in part an educational mission. From the NASA article:

  • Thousands of fourth - to eighth-grade students will select target areas on the lunar surface and send requests to the GRAIL MoonKAM Mission Operations Center in San Diego. Photos of the target areas will be sent back by the satellites for students to study.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Mind Reading Computer Program

The Guardian list an article that very well could help people who may have lost the ability to speak as a result of a stroke or other medical conditions.

Scientists have had some success in decoding the brain activity caused by words that they hear.  Quite literally,  the mental "thoughts" that go along with hearing spoken words.

This tech is of course still very much in the early phase, but ultimately - from  the article -

  •  the work paves the way for brain implants that could monitor a person's thoughts and speak words and sentences as they imagine them. 
Check out the video here

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Antipodean Issue 164 Now Online

Issue 164 of the Australian flash fiction online site Antipodean is now up.  Here is a list of the stories.  It is a great issue, editor Ion has done a great job of amassing some really good fiction this month!   

Deviation By Andy Astruc & RJ Astruc
Orbital Fort Orbital Fire By Wes Parish
Everything Old Is New Again By Nicole Rendall
Revenge Inc. By Kevin J. Phyland
Love In A Time Of Entropy By Geordie McLeod
Long Exalt The Average Person By Shaun A Saunders
Thump By M L Sawyer
Teach Your Children Well By Edwina Harvey
The Gift By Mick Dawson
Father Dominic Is Overworked By Bart Meehan

How NASA Fixed Aries for Five Bucks

You know, sometimes it good to see that NASA can still pull the fat out of the fire when push comes to shove....(oh dear...mixed Metaphors!)

You have heard here that the Aries lifter had a flaw that to fix would cost hundreds of millions. This flaw was a vibration that built up as the solid boosters burned down. This vibration, when coupled to the control deck made it impossible for the astronauts to read the craft's digital read outs and therefor impossible to complete the tasks of getting the system to orbit. Plans to correct the flaw went to ridiculous springs to even more unusual redos. But in this Gizmodo article, NASA engineers think if not outside the capsule, at least outside the box. In the article, after measuring the oscillations of the solid boosters, engineers scrounged up simple accelerometers and associated circuitry costing a mere fraction of the projected booster re-engineering. The fix was not to stop the vibration, but to strobe the digital readouts in the cabin at the same frequency as the solid rocket boosters - saving untold millions!

It is kind of moot since the Aries has been delayed and shelved numerous times, but it does show that there is still a certain amount of inventiveness still going on in NASA. Check out the Gizmodo article here